Lazio Coach Edy Reja insists Mauro Zarate and his men “were provoked” during the two brawls that marred their defeat at Bologna.
Andre Dias was sent off for a horror tackle on Gaston Ramirez, which degenerated into a scuffle with Henry Gimenez coming off the Bologna bench to join in.
Gimenez was also red carded in that incident.
After the final whistle, Zarate threw the ball at Matteo Rubin's head, allegedly spat in his face and then accidentally punched the referee's assistant when trying to strike one of the Bologna players in the ensuing melee.
“Gimenez provoked the brawl and he was the one to create all the problems,” insisted Reja after the 3-1 defeat.
“He came off the bench and started pushing people, sparking the fight. We were provoked. Dias is a very fair player and it was our mistake to be sucked in by provocation.
“We also had some tension left over from losing the Coppa Italia derby midweek, while Bologna were playing the game of their lives.”
There were other incidents in the first half, as Ramirez went to hospital for a potential fractured cheekbone from Dias' elbow, then Dias was caught on camera punching an opponent in the stomach to shake off a marker clinging to his shirt.
Zarate got the worst of it, though, and risks a ban after the violent scenes following the final whistle.
“Zarate knows he needs to improve and I have been asking him for months to perform certain movements,” continued Reja.
“He can do so much better than he is right now. However, the transfer stories are all lies. He will not leave Lazio, I am 200 per cent sure of that.”
Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's tipster competition - £11,000 to be won monthly!